Being Ignorant is No Excuse for Making Wack Music
“I’ma put it in hard, help these kids…” —Shyne, XXL September 2010.
Professional wrestling has more in common with hip-hop than most folks are willing to admit. Most popular rappers tend to have some kind of don’t-test-me attitude. They give proud speeches about how they're going to roll over the competition. Ask them whether all of this is "fake" and you might get a verbal beat-down, or worse. If the mainstream press buzzes about a real-life violent incident with a connection to rap (say, a shooting before, during or after a concert), the favorite retort is, "Hey, it's entertainment, don't blame us."
Vince McMahon would be proud.
Atlanta native Young Jeezy, interviewed in XXL, maintains that he should be given the crown of authenticity compared to other rappers whose past lifestyles allegedly don’t match up to the themes in their songs. Native Belizean Shyne was recently released from a 10-year prison bid following a trial involving himself and former mentor Sean "Puffy" Combs, in the aftermath of a nightclub shootout in 1999. For his part, Shyne professes that he acted in self-defense, and stresses that his prison behavior kept pace with "street codes."
Whether or not one concerns his or herself deeply about this depends on one's tolerance level for "nignorance." Nignorance is when prison and drug-game morals and ethics spill from those subcultures into the general community, and are allowed to creatively and thematically stifle the political depth of hip-hop music. The inane debate over "no snitching" in urban neighborhoods illustrates this.
“Ain’t nothin’ wrong with my people,” —Shyne, XXL September 2010.
Incarcerated folks catch fits about who is more of a genuine "street" artist, writing lengthy letters to magazines like XXL. Of course, "keeping it real" is what lands any number of heads behind bars to begin with. CLICK HERE for the breakdown for Blacks and Latinos in U.S. prisons: "Captive audience," indeed.
Nignorance is rappers concocting (and their hangers-on supporting) elaborate stories about being major drug-gamers before their record deals. It’s accepting the notion that a young Black/Latino, aged 15-25, can have a self-contained million-dollar drug empire, not become a marked man for the mob and/or police, and not come out the other end of this in jail, dead, or broke. To do so ignores a slew of American realities. This goes for Jay-Z, Rick Ross, and everyone else who has claimed "street king" status in their past.
Nignorance is a prosperous "street merchant" choosing not to invest one's gains in legitimate endeavors like real estate, waste management, credit unions, laundromats, grocery stores, etc., but instead chasing down label reps, hawking CDs from their car trunk, competing in open-mic-nights, to ultimately settling for a cash-advance from a record label, then arguing about the deductions from their semi-annual royalty statements.
Rap musicians should know that life is more important than a record, or even their pride. If any of them have a violent demise, can you call it "street credibility" if their childhood street gets renamed for them?
President Obama recently signed legislation that cuts down the disparities in sentencing of those caught with crack-cocaine vs. powdered coke. A great development, though, we still have the issue of folks from the underclass who look at dope-trafficking as just another career choice, or a stepping-stone move that will give them credibility as they seek rap fame.
“I think, at the end of the day, it’s just all entertainment. It’s like wrestling,” —Young Jeezy, XXL September 2010.
Hip-hop needs to get out of the squared circle. Real lives are at stake. —Hype Styles